The heart – how often do we hear that word? It seems that it is used constantly in some form or another. If we are extremely sad, we often say, “I am heartbroken.” If someone is insensitive, we might say something along the lines of, “You know what? You are heartless.” If someone is very emotional and quick to express the way they feel, we might say he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Then there are countless songs about the heart. The Eagles sang about “Heartache Tonight.” Bruce Springsteen sang that everybody has a “Hungry Heart.” Neil Young sang about “Searching for a Heart of Gold.” And of course, Billy Ray Cyrus sang about his “Achy Breaky Heart.” What have we learned about the heart from some of these songs? Your heart gets broken. Maybe that is why the Bee Gees recorded “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”
When we refer to the heart, usually we are referring to our emotional center. It is usually framed along the lines of, “Well, my mind is telling me to do one thing, but my heart is telling me another.”
Princess Diana once said, “Only do what your heart tells you.”
The Bible speaks of the heart as well. Here is what it says: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT) Jesus said, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 17:19).
The heart wants what it wants, and many times the heart wants the wrong things. So we should not focus on our heart as much as we should focus our hearts on God. A lot of crazy things have been done in the name of following the heart. But we should not let our hearts tell us what to do, because our hearts can mislead us.
Instead of talking about our heart being broken or unbroken or worn on our sleeve, Jesus tells us to use our heart – as well as our mind and our soul – for what they were created for.
One day Jesus was approached by a group of Pharisees who planned to trap him with this question: “Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” (Matthew 22:36) The Pharisees basically had documented 613 commandments in the law, and they identified 248 of those commandments as being positive and 365 being negative. They knew that no one could keep all of the commandments. Therefore, they identified some commandments as heavy and others as light.
We have a modern equivalent in the idea of mortal sin and venial sin, the suggestion being that venial sin is bad, but it is not as bad as mortal sin. The problem with this thinking is that it is not biblical. God does not make those distinctions. There is no such thing as a mortal sin or a venial sin.
The Pharisees were trying to open up a debate about greater commandments and lesser commandments. Instead Jesus went to the heart of the matter. He said, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). This was known as the Shema, something every Jew would have been very well-acquainted with.
Jesus was essentially saying, “Instead of worrying about all of these little commandments and which sin is worse than the other, get back to this: Love God with all of your being, and all of this stuff will be sorted out.”
It makes complete sense, doesn’t it? Because if I really love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul and mind, then I naturally will want to do what He wants me to do. The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections: The first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God, while the final six deal with our relationship with others.
If I really love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul and mind, then I will not want to have another God before Him or worship a false idol or take His name in vain. And if I love my neighbor as I love myself, then I will not want to steal from him or kill her or covet something that belongs to them. The idea is that if I can fully grasp this basic truth of loving God, then everything else will find its proper place.
It was Augustine who said to love God and do what you please. That sounds like a dangerous assertion. But really if we love God as we ought to, then we will want to do the things that please God.
So when Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Mark’s Gospel adds the word “strength” as well), it means that we are to love God with every part of our being.
For the Hebrew mind, the heart spoke of the center, or the core, of one’s being. The word “soul,” for the Hebrew, referred to emotion. And loving God with our mind carries the meaning of moving ahead with energy and strength. Genuine love for God is intelligent. It is feeling. It is willing. And it is serving.
I know people who are sticklers for correct doctrine, yet many of them are miserable, mean, arrogant and condemning. They will take the truth and use it like a sledgehammer in the life of another. I also know people who are very active and busy for God, but their love for him seems to be lacking.
If we can learn to love God as we ought to, then everything in life will come into its proper place and balance.